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"Please, sir, I want some more."
Oliver Twist
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A novel by Charles Dickens, originally published as a serial in Bentley's Miscellany between 1837 and 1839. Oliver Twist is born an orphan and raised to a young age in a cruel workhouse that exploits the poor. Eventually he escapes the workhouse, only to run afoul of the London underworld. He's recruited into a pickpocket gang, but rescued by a kindly gentleman who discovers Oliver's real identity and finally finds him a happy home.

The story is one of Dickens' most famous tales and includes some of his most enduring characters, including the crooked Jewish ringleader Fagin and the sly Artful Dodger. Like many of Dickens' works, the novel contains a great deal of social commentary on the way British society at the time treated its poor. Of particular note is the famous scene in which the starving Oliver begs for more gruel from the workhouse cook and is harshly punished.

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The story has been adapted many times throughout the years, including:

Can be read here.


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This book contains examples of:

  • Accidental Suicide: Bill Sykes, whose part in Nancy's death has come to light and is suffering from either a guilty conscience or is being haunted by her, tries to escape a lynch mob by tying a rope around his waist and jumping to safety from a rooftop. However, when he's just got the rope over his head, he experiences a hallucination/visitation, slips on a loose shingle, and hangs himself.
  • Adopted to the House: A couple of different households attempt this with Oliver, but it's not until the end that they're actually successful (the previous times resulted in Oliver being stolen back by the thieves).
  • Adults Are Useless: Played straight then later subverted. This includes the magistrate who refuses to give Oliver over to a chimney sweeper (who is obviously going to use him to clean chimneys until he gets stuck in one and can't get out just like every other boy he's adopted) when he sees Oliver is obviously terrified by the man. This is the first time an adult actually shows genuine kindness and concern for Oliver, a poor, sweet little orphan boy. Then there was Mr. Brownlow, who pretty much offers to adopt the young boy, his lovely housekeeper, his grumpy friend Mr. Grimwig, and then of course the Maylie family.
  • Age-Gap Romance:
    • Edwin Leefort was on both ends of this. First he married a much older woman (Monks's mother) and theirs was a very unhappy union. After his wife's death he met a much younger girl named Agnes and they hit it off, but he suddenly died and Agnes ran away from her family. And we all know what happened to her.
    • Bill Sikes was thirty-five and Nancy was about seventeen.
  • All Girls Want Bad Boys: Played with. Nancy is fiercely loyal to the abusive Sikes, though she has no illusions about what he is. On the other hand, Rose falls for the Incorruptibly Pure Harry.
  • Alphabetical Theme Naming: The orphans when they're found are given a name from the next letter of the alphabet (ie. Oliver (Twist) was proceeded by a Swubble and followed by an Unwin, followed by a Vilkins and so on), with their last name related to place they were found.
  • Animal Motifs: Bill Sikes' dog, Bull's-eye, has "faults of temper in common with his owner" and is an emblem of his owner's character. The dog's viciousness represents Sikes's animal-like brutality while Sikes's self-destructiveness is evident in the dog's many scars. The dog, with its willingness to harm anyone on Sikes's whim, shows the mindless brutality of the master. Sikes himself senses that the dog is a reflection of himself and that is why he tries to drown the dog. He is really trying to run away from who he is. This is also illustrated when Sikes dies and the dog immediately dies as well. After Sikes murders Nancy, Bull's-eye also comes to represent Sikes's guilt. The dog leaves bloody footprints on the floor of the room where the murder is committed. Not long after, Sikes becomes desperate to get rid of the dog, convinced that the dog's presence will give him away. Yet, just as Sikes cannot shake off his guilt, he cannot shake off Bull's-eye, who arrives at the house of Sikes's demise before Sikes himself does. Bull's-eye's name also conjures up the image of Nancy's eyes, which haunt Sikes until the bitter end and eventually cause him to hang himself accidentally.
  • Angry Chef: Oliver begs the cook for more gruel and is punished by the cook for it.
  • Anti-Villain: Nancy, who despite participating in many of the gang's crimes, chooses to put her at life on the line to rescue Oliver after her conscience caught up with her.
  • The Artful Dodger: Being the Trope Namer, The Artful Dodger is the epitome of this trope, being a crafty, street-wise urchin who seems well content with his lot. Even after he's arrested, he's undaunted, and is last seen mocking the authorities during his day in court.
  • Bad Boss: Fagin doesn't care at all about members of his gang that are hanged for stealing (the fact that most of them were children only made it worse), but he'll do anything in his power to silence one who he thinks would rat on him to the authorities.
  • Bad-Guy Bar: The Three Cripples, an inn where Fagin and his various criminal associates hang out.
  • Bad People Abuse Animals: The chimney sweep, Mr. Gamfield, has three dead apprentices to his name, but is shown beating his donkey on the head as a more direct illustration of what fate would be in store for Oliver, should he get him under his care.
  • Bad Samaritan: Fagin takes in homeless street urchins, giving them shelter and food and a sense of family. He also turns them into a band of criminals, and if they don't earn enough money, they are beaten and tossed out.
  • Badass Longcoat: The Artful Dodger has one. To make it more badass, the reason it's so long is that he stole it from someone twice his size.
  • Beauty Equals Goodness: All of the adult male criminals are explicitly described as being ugly or disfigured save for "Flash" Toby Crackit. Rose is beautiful, and Agnes, Oliver's sympathetic mother, was apparently attractive in her youth.
  • Beg the Dog: Before his execution, Fagin begs Oliver, the little boy whom he abducted and forced to become a thief against his will, to save his life.
  • Berserk Button: Don't even think about insulting Oliver's mother.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Oliver is for the most part innocent and innocuous, but when Noah Claypole insults Oliver's mother, Oliver snaps and administers a No-Holds-Barred Beatdown, to Noah's astonishment.
  • Big Bad Duumvirate: Monks hires Fagin to do his dirty work and Fagin makes deals with Bill Sikes.
  • Big Bad: Mr. Monks, a.k.a. Edward Leeford, Oliver's disinherited older brother. He's usually omitted from adaptations, oddly enough, with the role of Big Bad typically shifted to Bill Sikes, who is The Brute in the book, merely another character manipulated by Fagin who serves the role of Monks' Dragon.
  • Big, Screwed-Up Family: Just check out what Oliver's dad, Edwin Leeford, had to deal with.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Oliver is happy and living with his wealthy family, but he has to deal with a lot of trauma and among everything else his newfound happiness is soured by the news of his friend Dick's death. Meanwhile, Dodger is caught and deported to Australia, Fagin is caught and executed, and both Sikes and Nancy are dead. Make of that what you will.
  • Bludgeoned to Death: Nancy is beaten to death by Sikes when he thinks that she squealed on him.
  • Break the Cutie:
    • This is exactly what the bad guys want to do to Oliver. They almost succeed.
    • Also, Agnes's Death by Childbirth is the end to one of these.
  • Broken Bird: Nancy, Agnes at the time of her death.
  • The Bully: Noah Claypole, who is cruel to little Oliver.
  • Cain and Abel: Oliver and his half-brother, Monks/Edward Leeford.
  • Catchphrase: Lots of the characters have them. Perhaps the most memorable is "I'll eat my head!"
  • Canon Welding: The gentleman in the white waistcoat, who runs the oppressive workhouse and abuses Oliver, appears later in A Christmas Carol, of all places. Scrooge is shown a ghost in a white waistcoat being tormented in the afterlife for being cruel to the poor; apparently he and Scrooge had been "quite familiar."
  • Chekhov's Gunman:
    • Nancy is initially introduced as just one of Fagin's acquaintances, before becoming a significant figure in the plot.
    • Noah Claypole first appears as the apprentice whose cruelty inspires Oliver to run away to London, and for most of the book that seems like that's all. Near the end of the book, he comes to London himself seeking his fortune, just in time to play a key role in the climax.
  • Children Are Innocent: Played with. The pickpockets are streetwise crooks, but they're desperate for survival and guided by malicious adults who exploit them.
  • Children Do the Housework: In Mrs. Mann's "baby farm", all housework is (illegally) done by the kids, whereas Mrs. Mann doesn't do anything and receives compensation for taking in the children.
  • Cliffhanger: Since the novel was published as a serial, Dickens was naturally fond of this - how else are you going to make sure the readers buy the next issue?
  • Consummate Liar: Nancy is perfectly capable of fooling police officers, her lover Bill, and even Fagin.
  • Contrived Coincidence: Oliver is an orphan in a town 75 miles from London who runs away to the big city and falls in with a gang of thieves. Obviously, the mark in the first pickpocketing caper he's involved with turns out to be an old friend of his father's. After getting kidnapped by the crooks, he's forced to get involved in a burglary. This time the victim turns out to be his mother's sister.
  • Cool Old Guy: Mr Brownlow.
  • Cool Old Lady: Mrs Maylie.
  • Cornered Rattlesnake: Fagin is, by nature, cowardly, and he avoids direct confontations with both the law and more violent criminals, such as Sikes. But when his back is to the wall and he's facing execution, his fits of violent, frantic madness horrify even his jailers. He has to be dragged to the gallows kicking and screaming.
  • Corruption of a Minor: Fagin spends his time teaching young boys how to pickpocket and get away with it.
  • Corrupt the Cutie: It turns out that most of the business with Fagin and Oliver was part of Monks's plan to make the kid a criminal thus robbing him of his inheritance.
  • Crapsack World: Played straight, with London and the Workhouse, but subverted when Oliver lives in the country with the Maylies.
  • Cursed with Awesome: Right away the narrator makes it clear that being born in a workhouse was the best thing for Oliver, and that had he been surrounded by loving family members and skilled doctors his breathing problems would have killed him.
  • Death by Childbirth: Oliver's mother Agnes. Who also is Rose's deceased older sister.
  • Deathbed Confession: Old Sally tells Mrs. Corney that she stole some jewelry (namely, a locket and a ring) from Oliver's mother, Agnes Fleming, right after she died. Sally dies begging Mrs. Corney to give the jewels to Oliver; she instead gives them to his half-brother Edward aka Monks, who throws them to the Thames river.
  • Denied Food as Punishment: In this case, the part about not getting enough food is not intended as a punishment, it's just the way the orphanarium is run. The actual punishment is that Oliver is sold into what amounts to slavery (at least, that's the Workhouse Master's intent; it doesn't work out quite that badly for him).
  • Dirty Coward:
    • Monks prefers to get others to do his dirty work for him, and he's shown to be easily intimidated when Mr Brownlow questions him.
    • Noah Claypole is even worse. He picks on anybody weaker than him, but shies away from more serious crimes because he thinks they're "too dangerous", even balking at stealing old ladies' bags. He torments Oliver, but is terrified when Oliver attacks him after he insults the boy's mother. He ends up selling out Fagin in order to save himself from prison, and becomes a police informer because it's the safest and easiest job he can think of.
  • Disney Villain Death: Sikes and his dog fall to their deaths. Haunted by Nancy's ghost after murdering her, Sikes attempts to flee, but ultimately comes back to London. Whilst trying to escape from an angry mob, he tries to lower himself down from his hiding place via a rope, loses his balance, falls, and the rope catches his neck and hangs him. His dog jumps at his master, misses, and strikes his head against a stone, dashing out his brains. Ouch! The dog's death was more gruesome than his master's.
  • Disproportionate Retribution:
    • Oliver asks for a second helping of food and is severely punished for it. (This was intended as a cutting satire on social conditions, of course.)
    • To modern eyes, having a kid deported because you found a stolen snuffbox on him seems a tad harsh.
  • Domestic Abuser: Bill Sikes, to Nancy; Noah Claypole, to Charlotte (to a certain extent, anyway; it's verbal, not physical); Widow Corney, to Mr Bumble; and Mrs Sowerberry, to Mr Sowerberry. The last two probably qualify more as Henpecked Husband, but it's still portrayed as somewhat abusive.
  • Drawing Straws: This is how Oliver gets chosen as the one to ask for "more". Although in his case, he gets the lone long straw.
  • Enter Stage Window: Oliver is sent through a small window in a house by Bill Sikes, so that he can open the front door to let Bill in to commit a robbery.
  • Environmental Symbolism: The London slums have a suffocating, infernal aspect; the dark deeds and dark passions are concretely characterised by dim rooms and pitch-black nights, while the governing mood of terror and brutality may be identified with uncommonly cold weather. In contrast, the countryside where the Maylies take Oliver is a bucolic heaven.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Charley may be a pickpocket and street urchin, but he's very upset when Sikes kills Nancy, to the point where he actually cleans up his act.
  • Evil Mentor: Fagin.
  • Evil Redhead: Fagin and Toby Crackit.
  • Eye Motifs: Toward the end of the novel, the gaze of knowing eyes becomes a potent symbol. For years, Fagin avoids daylight, crowds, and open spaces, concealing himself most of the time in a dark lair. When his luck runs out at last, he squirms in the "living light" of too many eyes as he stands in the dock, awaiting sentence. Similarly, after Sikes kills Nancy at dawn, he flees the bright sunlight in their room, out to the countryside, but is unable to escape the memory of her dead eyes. In addition, Charley Bates turns his back on crime when he sees the murderous cruelty of the man who has been held up to him as a model.
  • The Fagin: Trope Namer.
  • Fear of Thunder: Monks is afraid of thunder, and has a good old rant about it at one point. However, in his case it is a pretty legitimate fear.
  • Felony Misdemeanor: Oliver's famous request for a second pitiful helping of porridge is treated like a high crime by the miserly workhouse staff. "He asked for more?"
  • Females Are More Innocent:
    • Most of the women are wholesome, decent people (special mention goes to The Ingenue Rose), save for Nancy, who is a Love Martyr for Bill Sikes, someone who is less than pleasant. But Nancy, compared with the other members of Fagin's gang, is still the most moral of them.
    • To be fair with the use of this assumption, male members of Fagin's gang get to live Tom Sawyer's dream, and the females get to be sluts in the eyes of the public.
    • Oliver's father stipulates in his will that Agnes' child, should it be a girl, will get an inheritance unconditionally. If the child was born a boy, he could only claim his inheritance provided that he should not have done anything to publicly dishonor his name during his minority. Which is why Edwin's first son Edward/Monks wants to completely discredit his half-brother Oliver, who is said child.
    • Subverted, somewhat humorously, with the Bumbles. While Mr Bumble is by no means innocent, the fact that his wife would be seen by law as 'acting under his influence', thus less guilty, is shown to be absurd since he's a Henpecked Husband subjected to Domestic Abuse from her. Bumble even lampshades it, stating that the law must be a bachelor and an idiot.
    • Subverted with Mrs Mann, the baby farm keeper. While the farm gets enough money to feed them, she keeps most of it to herself while underfeeding the children to the edge of starvation. Mortality rate due to neglect and starvation is a staggering 85 percent. Even the otherwise neglectful parish is disturbed by the rumors, but nothing is ever proven.
  • Fisticuff-Provoking Comment: Oliver endures a lot of verbal abuse from Noah Claypole, but when Noah insults his mother, Oliver responds with his fists.
  • Five-Finger Discount: Fagin's boys are trained to be pickpockets and sneak thieves. They're quite good at the job, too.
  • Foil: Dickens employs polarised sets of characters to explore various dual themes throughout the novel. Mr Brownlow and Fagin, for example, personify "good vs. evil".
  • Greedy Jew:
    • Dickens indulges in this trope to the hilt with Fagin, however it does not appear that Dickens himself held any grudge against Jews. Creating exaggerated characters out of all walks of life was simply his stock in trade. He also claimed that he only made Fagin Jewish because he legitimately believed that most London "kidsmen" were Jewish. Later in life, Dickens befriended some Jewish people and discovered that they were, rather understandably, offended by the character; by way of apology, he went back and excised many references to Fagin's faith.
    • Perhaps even more offensive than Fagin is Barney, the barman at The Three Cripples, who gets no characterisation beyond that he's Jewish, greedy, ugly, evil, and has a speech impediment.
  • Happily Adopted: Oliver gets adopted by the good Mr. Brownlow. Something of a twist (no pun intended) on the trope, however, since Mr. Brownlow turns out to be an old friend of Oliver's family who would have been Oliver's uncle-by-marriage had fate, in the form of the unbelievably complicated backstory, not intervened.
  • Hard-Drinking Party Girl: Nancy, though she also shows shades of The Alcoholic. Fagin gets all his female wards addicted to alcohol. Though the reason is never given, it's most likely so that they'll be more dependent and/or more pleasant company.
  • Have a Gay Old Time: Charley Bates is frequently called "Master Bates." Unless you view that as a deliberate double entendre, it might be an instance of this trope. The intended humor then lies in the fact that Charley is a street urchin unlikely to deserve such an honorific.
  • Heartwarming Orphan
  • The Heavy: While Monks is the architect behind the hardships that Oliver has to deal with after the first part of the story, he has thanks to his money and influence, Fagin and by extension Bill Sykes do his dirty work to the point that he is often forgotten by readers. They are so much more direct and iconic that lots of adaptations forget his existence as well.
  • Heel–Face Turn:
    • After helping kidnap him, Nancy starts to care for Oliver and betrays Fagin in order to protect the child. Note: she does not turn on Sikes, and refuses to leave him. If only he knew that ...
    • Charley Bates is the only one of Fagin's associates who fully reforms.
  • Henpecked Husband:
    • The eventual outcome of Mr. Bumble's marriage to the Widow Corney.
    • Also Mr. and Mrs. Sowerberry.
  • Heroic Bastard: Oliver is revealed to be the illegitimate son of a rich man named Edwin Leeford SR. and his young mistress, a girl named Agnes Fleming.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners:
    • The Dodger and Charley Bates, Brownlow and Grimwig, the Doctor and Grimwig (they become this after the events of the book, anyway).
    • If the fact that Bet cried and screamed over Nancy's death to the point where she was sent to a mental institution is any indication of their closeness/friendship, they probably were.
    • Also Brownlow and Oliver's Disappeared Dad Edwin Leeford, to the point of becoming his Secret-Keeper.
  • High-Heel–Face Turn: Nancy is the only female in the group of villains, and the only one to do help Oliver. Although she turns, she cannot abandon her criminal friends because All Girls Want Bad Boys.
  • Hooker with a Heart of Gold: Nancy. Charles Dickens stated in a preface written for the full novel that "the girl is a prostitute", although in the story itself her occupation is only hinted at through innuendo.
  • Hope Spot: Though working at Sowerberry's is far from ideal, Mr Sowerberry seems to warm to Oliver somewhat and encourages him in his work.
  • Hypocrite: While Mr Bumble preaches Christian principle he himself fails to live up to these lofty ideals by behaving without compassion or mercy toward the paupers under his charge. For example, in Chapter 3 Bumble calls Oliver a "naughty orphan which nobody can't love."
  • Incorruptible Pure Pureness: Oliver and the Maylies.
  • Jerkass: Near the beginning, most authority figures.
  • Karma Houdini: Noah Claypole saves himself from prison by selling out Fagin, and goes on to become an Informer because it's the easiest and safest job he can think of. So far as we know, he never stopped being The Bully or a Dirty Coward.
  • Kill the Cutie: Dick, the younger Heartwarming Orphan who was Oliver's Only Friend at the workhouse, is briefly mentioned to have died off-page, just to make the reader feel bad.
  • Laser-Guided Karma:
    • After years of tyrannizing over the workhouse, the Bumbles end the novel in it.
    • Monks, Oliver's callous brother, loses all his money and dies in prison a lowly criminal, the same fate he tried to enforce onto Oliver.
    • Sykes, while trying to avoid persecution from the police for murder, bungles his escape and accidentally hangs himself, essentially executing himself for the authorities.
  • Literary Allusion Title: The original subtitle was "The Parish Boy's Progress," an obvious nod to John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress. It also follows the pattern of Hogarth's series of paintings "The Rake's Progress" and "The Harlot's Progress" about people who fell into lives of dissolution.
  • Lemony Narrator: Dickens' authorial voice is well known for this trope.
  • London Gangster: Bill Sikes is one of the most depraved criminals in the book. Murderously violent, has a Hair-Trigger Temper and a Right-Hand Attack Dog, carries a cudgel, and does business with Fagin and Monk. And that's not even getting into what he does to Nancy...
  • Luke, I Am Your Father: Or better said, "Oliver, I'm your Disappeared Dad's best friend".
  • Mama Bear: Nancy, who is fiercely protective of Oliver and harbors a great deal of motherly affection and pity for him, tries to prevent him from being kidnapped a second time, after Oliver has finally managed to find safety in the household of the Maylie family, whom Sikes tried unsuccessfully to rob. She gives Rose Maylie and Mr. Brownlow, Oliver's benefactor, information about Oliver's evil half-brother Monks, who is in league with Fagin.
  • May–December Romance: It's implied by Mr. Brownlow that Oliver and Monks' father Edwin Leeford and his unnamed first wife aka Monks' mother were like this. Uncommonly, she was the older one. And theirs was a very unhappy union.
  • Meaningful Name: In the tradition of Restoration Comedy and Henry Fielding, Dickens fits his characters with appropriate names. Oliver himself, though "badged and ticketed" as a lowly orphan and named according to an alphabetical system, is, in fact, "all of a twist." However, Oliver and his name may have been based on a young workhouse boy named Peter Tolliver whom Dickens knew while growing up. Mr Grimwig is so called because his seemingly "grim", pessimistic outlook is actually a protective cover for his kind, sentimental soul. Other character names mark their bearers as semi-monstrous caricatures. Mrs Mann, who has charge of the infant Oliver, is not the most motherly of women; Mr Bumble, despite his impressive sense of his own dignity, continually mangles the King's English he tries to use; and the Sowerberries are, of course, "sour berries", a reference to Mrs Sowerberry's perpetual scowl, to Mr Sowerberry's profession as an undertaker, and to the poor provender Oliver receives from them. Rose Maylie's name echoes her association with flowers and springtime, youth and beauty while Toby Crackit's is a reference to his chosen profession of housebreaking.
  • Missing Mom: Oliver's mother Agnes dies at the beginning of the novel.
  • Nice Hat: The Artful Dodger is mentioned to wear a hat which (like the rest of his attire) doesn't quite fit, but which stays on his head at all times because he's developed the habit of jerking his head just right to keep it on. One early illustrator decided that the hat should be a slightly-battered top hat, which has since become a beloved icon of the character.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Mr. Fang is based on the hot-tempered magistrate Allan Laing.
  • Noose Catch: Bill Sykes accidentally hangs himself while trying to escape out a window; the plan was to have the rope under his shoulders, but he freaks out and falls out with it around his neck.
  • Obviously Evil: Dickens describes Sikes in these terms. He even says that his legs alone wouldn't look right without manacles on them.
  • On One Condition: It is revealed that Oliver's father had left him an enormous fortune which he would only inherit if he maintained a clean record throughout his youth, or else it would go to his half-brother Monks. This is why Monks had pressured Fagin to take Oliver in as one of his thieves. Because Oliver's mother was still pregnant with him by the time his father wrote that will, he added a clause that would exempt Oliver from that condition had Oliver been a girl instead of a boy.
  • One Degree of Separation: Oliver is saved from going to prison by the man who turns out to be a friend (and nearly brother-in-law) of Oliver's real father. On another occasion, he is rescued from Sikes by a woman who is (unknown to either of them) the sister of Oliver's mother.
  • Orphanage of Fear: Oliver starts out in one of these. Technically it's a workhouse- a homeless shelter where the inhabitants did grueling physical labor to pay for their extremely basic accommodation (though in reality, they were more like work camps for the crime of being broke and desperate); these would encompass a section for children (some of whom would actually have one or both parents living in the men's or women's wards respectively.) In fact, social reformers of the time actually regarded orphanages as a more humane alternative to workhouses.
  • Orphan's Ordeal: Oliver's mother dies in childbirth, he's raised in an abusive "baby farm" before being moved to an even worse workhouse where the children are beaten and starved, and finally ends up as an apprentice to an undertaker, which would have been somewhat better had it not been for the undertaker's cruel wife and another apprentice who is jealous of Oliver. He finally runs away, only to end up being drawn into the criminal world through pickpocket leader Fagin, and the robber and murderer Bill Sikes.
  • Parental Abandonment: Oliver's mother suffered Death by Childbirth, leaving him to the care of the parish orphanage. This doesn't work out so well.
  • Parental Substitute: Many, good and bad, including: Fagin, Nancy, Mr. Brownlow, his housekeeper, Rose Maylie, and Mrs. Maylie.
  • Person with the Clothing: The person who runs the board of governors of the workhouse is identified only as "the gentleman in the white waistcoat".
  • Pet the Dog: Dickens briefly reveals Bumble's human side when he escorts Oliver to the premises of Mr Sowerberry, the undertaker. When Oliver bursts into tears and expresses his fears, Bumble "regarded Oliver's piteous and helpless look, with some astonishment, for a few seconds; hemmed three or four times in a husky manner, and, after muttering something about 'that troublesome cough', bade Oliver dry his eyes and be a good boy. Then, once more taking his hand, he walked on with him in silence." However, Bumble does not act on this finer feeling.
  • Pinball Protagonist: Oliver is a helpless orphan boy who is pushed from one set of circumstances to another without any real power. In fact, his inaction is his greatest triumph, as he never gets corrupted by his ill fortunes.
  • Poverty Food: Oliver gets three thin bowls of gruel a day in the orphanage. Possibly the Trope Codifier.
  • Purple Prose: As is typical for a Dickens novel, the writing is quite purple and filled with Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness, often to produce a wry effect. (As is the case with most of his work, Dickens was paid by the installment, and needed to fill each part of the story out to 32 pages somehow...)
  • Race-Name Basis: One particularly awkward meta-example occurs in the narration, which primarily refers to Fagin as "the Jew".
  • Raised by Orcs: Oliver, a member of the gentry, is orphaned and left at the mercy of cruel, greedy caretakers and ultimately London's criminal class. He manages to remain uncorrupted by their influence
  • Redemption Equals Death: Nancy commits one of the most noble acts of kindness in the story when she ultimately defies Bill, in order to help Oliver to a better life, and she is subsequently martyred for it. Her character represented Dickens' view that a person, however tainted by society, could still retain a sense of good and redeem for past crimes but will surely be paid back for their bad deeds committed before.
  • Red Right Hand: Monks has a red mark on his face. He also suffers from fits which occasionally discolour his face further. Some of the other criminals are mentioned to have scars and the like.
  • Revealing Cover Up: If Sikes et al hadn't been so concerned about getting Oliver back so he couldn't implicate them, then they probably would have continued unnoticed and lived. Of course as soon as they kidnap him, the whole house of cards starts to collapse.
  • Right-Hand Attack Dog: Bill Sikes' dog Bull's Eye who is as vicious as his owner, probably because Sikes abuses him. Bull's Eye is pathetically loyal to Sikes though, and jumps to his death after Sikes hangs himself.
  • Right on the Tick: Used in a bit of foreshadowing when Nancy pays attention to clock striking eight p.m. Eight a.m. was when friends/colleagues of hers were to be executed the next day.
  • The Runaway: After the orphanage where he grew up sells him to an undertaker as an assistant, Oliver runs away to London where he is taken in by a gang of pickpockets before being reunited with his charming, modestly wealthy relatives.
  • Satanic Archetype: Fagin has satanic characteristics: he is a veteran corrupter of young boys who presides over his own corner of the criminal world; he makes his first appearance standing over a fire holding a toasting-fork, and he refuses to pray on the night before his execution.
  • The Scrooge: Fagin is a confessed miser who, despite the wealth that he has acquired, does very little to improve the squalid lives of the children he guards, or his own.
  • Sentenced to Down Under: The Artful Dodger's final fate. Probably. The book doesn't explicitly state it beyond some vague references to him being "sent away" or similar. The "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue says that those of Fagin's gang who were not executed immediately eventually died a long way from home.
  • Shoo Out the Clowns: The Artful Dodger is arrested and shipped off to Australia just before the string of events that result in the murder of Nancy and the deaths of Sikes and Fagin.
  • Signature Line: Oliver's "Please, sir, I want some more" is likely the most quoted line of the book and its adaptation, being the inciting incident for Oliver's troubles, though it is often slightly misquoted as "Please, sir, may I have some more?"
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: The book was famously quite cynical and critical about the plight of the poor in England at the time, yet is also typically idealistic in its regard for incorruptible youth.
  • Slut-Shaming: Poor Nancy is trying to help the Maylies with information on Monks, but almost every time, someone of higher status than herself shames her for being a prostitute.
  • Star-Crossed Lovers: Agnes and Edwin, who don't get better. Later Rose and Harry Maylie — who do.
  • Stockholm Syndrome: Fagin uses this when attempting to groom Oliver to be in his gang, first keeping Oliver in solitary confinement but gradually allowing him to socialize with the pickpockets. It doesn't take thanks to Oliver's Incorruptible Pure Pureness.
  • Street Urchin:
    • The Artful Dodger, Charley Bates and the rest of Fagin's pickpockets, including Oliver.
    • Nancy was this once, as well, before Fagin put her on the street and became her pimp.
  • Strong Family Resemblance: Mr. Brownlow started to have thoughts about Oliver's true identity when he noticed that he looked a LOT like the portrait of Agnes that he kept at his home...
  • The Summation: At the end, Mr. Brownlow assembles everyone in a room to explain the mystery of Monks' relationship to Oliver.
  • The Svengali: Fagin takes in street urchins and teaches them how to become accomplished thieves. He profits greatly from their thefts and simply writes them off when they get caught and executed.
  • Take It to the Bridge: After Nancy goes to meet Rose Maylie and warn her about the plot against Oliver, they arrange to meet again on London Bridge on Sunday night. The bridge serves as neutral territory, and also a metaphor for the fact that the meeting represents the beginning of a great change in both their lives.
  • This Bed of Rose's: Nancy takes Oliver under her wing and is determined to raise him to be a respectable young man.
  • Thin-Skinned Bully: Several characters, most notably Mr. Bumble, Noah Claypole, and Monks, make it a point to only pick on weaker or lower status people and are quickly exposed as Dirty Cowards when anybody attempts to fight back.
  • Too Good for This Sinful Earth: Comes very close to playing this straight with Rose but ultimately subverts it.
  • Trailers Always Spoil: When the completed novel was reprinted in parts, the very first cover gave away Fagin's imprisonment and Bill Sikes' death.
  • Trap Door: Monks meets Mr and Mrs Bumble in his derelict warehouse hideout, and after their conversation reveals that they had been sitting on a trapdoor that he could have used to drop them in the river had he wished.
  • Truth in Television: Charles Dickens wrote the book based on many problems that were prevalent in English society at the time. Fagin was a representative of a type of criminal found in the slums of that day, called a "kidsman." They would train young runaways and "throwaway" children to pick pockets, and pay them for the proceeds, as well as providing a place to sleep. Oliver Twist himself gets used as what was called a "snakesman"—a young child or very small adult who could insinuate himself into places where an adult could not pass, to open doors and allow older, larger confederates to enter.
  • Tuckerization: Dickens named Fagin after a man he worked with in a factory in his childhood. The real Fagin was actually a kindly man, but Dickens' memories of that period scarred him for life.
  • Tyop on the Cover: One typo-filled edition had one on the back cover, saying "Covert art by X" instead of "Cover art by X."
  • Uncatty Resemblance: Bill Sikes' bulldog, Bull's-eye, resembles him both physically (they possess similar facial scars and markings) and temperamentally. Bull's-eye also follows his master in death.
  • Vague Age: Nancy was tainted and played at a young age by Fagin to do his bidding. Her exact age is not mentioned in the book, although she says she has been a thief for 12 years (and began working for Fagin when she was half Oliver's age). From this it can be deduced that she is probably around seventeen. She is typically depicted in her teens or mid-20s in film versions of the novel. She apparently looks older than her years, as she tells Rose Maylie "I am younger than you would think, to look at me, but I am well used to it."
  • Villainous Breakdown: Sikes after murdering Nancy; Fagin while awaiting execution.
  • "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue: The last chapter is mostly taken up with giving a sentence or two about the fates of the various surviving characters.
  • Would Hit a Girl: Sikes, who physically abuses Nancy. This includes the fatal beating of her toward the end of the novel.
  • Wouldn't Hurt a Child: The Maylie family's manservant, Giles, is quite proud of the fact he managed to shoot one of the would be intruders who tried to break into the household. Until he realizes he shot Oliver, at which point he essentially turns white with sheer horror.
  • Younger Than They Look: Nancy says she is "younger than you would think, to look at me", having been prematurely aged by a hard life of poverty and prostitution.

Tropes unique to the 1922 film:

  • All Part of the Show: Oliver dives under a puppet show booth, only to be immediately caught by the man pursuing him. The audience briefly thinks it's part of the show before the rest of the crowd chasing Oliver shows up.
  • Coordinated Clothes: During his brief time as apprentice to Mr. Sowerberry, Oliver wears a suit that matches Sowerberry's, including a top hat with a long tail.
  • Dream Sequence: Oliver, after going to bed hungry in the workhouse, dreams of a spoon and a plate dancing.
  • Impairment Shot: Everything goes fuzzy before Oliver faints in court.
  • Pragmatic Adaptation: Besides dropping a lot of plot points in order to squeeze the story into a 74-minute movie, the film fixes the egregious Contrived Coincidences from the novel. The film omits the bits about Rose being Oliver's aunt and Mr. Browlow being Oliver's father's friend; they are simply nice people who wind up taking an interest in Oliver.


Tropes unique to the 1948 adaptation

  • Adaptational Context Change: Although the film omits Fagin being sent to prison, he does scream out the lines he has in the book in his death cell, "Strike them all dead! What right have they to butcher me?"
  • Adaptation Explanation Extrication: Although the film includes Monks, Oliver's half-brother, it is never explained in the script that Monks is the half-brother at all. He seems to be merely a mysterious stranger who turns up to make trouble for Oliver. The one clue to his identity is furnished when he says to Brownlow, "Is this a trick to deprive me of my inheritance?", and Brownlow replies "You have no inheritance, for as you know, my daughter had the child!" The terms of the will left by Oliver's father—that Oliver would be disinherited if he ever committed a criminal act—are also left unexplained.
  • Adapted Out:
    • The boy dying of consumption and malnourishment in the workhouse, Dick, never appears in the film.
    • Oliver's father is never mentioned at all in the film, while in the book he was Mr. Brownlow's best friend.
    • Nancy's best friend Bet is also omitted.
  • Art Imitates Art: Alec Guinness wore heavy make-up, including a large prosthetic nose, to make him look like Fagin as he appeared in George Cruikshank's illustrations in the first edition of the novel.
  • Composite Character: As in most film and stage adaptations, Oliver is brought up in just the one workhouse, and the two respective matrons, Mrs. Mann and Mrs. Corney, are combined into the same character.
  • Decomposite Character: While Oliver is forced by Sikes to help him burgle a house, Nancy goes directly to Mr. Brownlow to warn him of the plot against the boy, and Fagin dispatches the Artful Dodger instead of Noah Claypole (who appears only in the early scenes) to spy on her. It is also Dodger, and not Charley Bates, who angrily gives up Sikes to the police (he suffers remorse after discovering Nancy's dead body and realising he has been an unintentional party to her murder).
  • Dies Differently in Adaptation: Sikes' death is changed slightly: while attempting to swing to another building to escape the mob, he is shot by a police officer and dies while dangling from a building by a rope around his body. This was later used in Oliver!.
  • Pet the Dog: Before Oliver leaves with Sikes, Nancy wraps her scarf around him and momentarily touches his cheek to silently reassure him.
  • Related in the Adaptation: Agnes Fleming, Oliver's mother, is turned into Brownlow's daughter, rather than simply the paramour of Oliver's father.


Other adaptations without their own pages:

  • Adapted Out: Rosie Maylie, Monks and Charley Bates are often omitted from adaptations.
  • Does Not Like Shoes: Oliver in the 2007 version. Normally, Oliver is barefoot because the workhouse doesn't give him shoes, and he is dressed properly by Mr Brownlow, but in this adaptation, he actually removes his shoes voluntarily due to them hurting while on the walk to London, and remains barefoot for almost the rest of the series.
  • Don't Look at Me!: In the 2007 version, Bill Sykes seems to hate people staring at him, but is rather inconsistent in it; several times he threatens people who do look at him, but other times he seems fine with it and will hold a conversation with them and have no problem making eye contact. This is possibly a nod to the book, where Sykes' last words refer to "the eyes" of dead Nancy.
  • Gender Flip: Sikes is played by Lena Headey in the 2021 movie Twist.
  • Pet the Dog: In the 1985 miniseries, when Sykes abandons Oliver in the ditch, he takes a moment to pull the blanket up to his chin and patting it down before running off.
  • Race Lift: In a 2007 BBC television adaptation, Nancy is played by Sophie Okonedo. Contrary to her appearance in the novel, she is mixed-race in this version.
  • Remake Cameo: Timothy Spall had a small role as a constable in the 1982 film. He went on to play Fagin in the 2007 miniseries.
  • Spell My Name with an "S": Some adaptations credit Bill "Sikes" as "Sykes".
  • Villainous Mother-Son Duo: The Nightmare Fuel-packed 1999 TV series makes posthumous character in the book, Elizabeth Leeford, a case of Greater-Scope Villain who was determined to murder her husband and claim his vast fortune. She was reluctantly assisted in her plans by her sniveling son, Edward, better known as Monks, whom she treated with utter contempt. After she died of alcoholism, Edward, under the pseudonym of Monks tried to finish what she started by trying to get his stepfather's fortune. Ultimately he does a Heel–Face Turn.


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